The interface between the photosphere and the corona remains till date one of the basic challenges in solar and heliospheric science.
IRIS mission which is an acronym for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph is a vital tool and opens a window of opportunity to understand the flow of energy and plasma through the chromosphere and transition region into the corona.
IRIS project has been envisaged to provide a better understanding of the transport in the solar wind and the Corona.
There is a huge gap in our understanding of this dynamic region of the solar atmosphere and IRIS along with its distinctive instrument capabilities, together with state of the art 3-D modeling, will fill in this gap.
IRIS is providing valuable insights into all these process and also increases our understanding of the solar drivers of space weather from the corona to the far heliosphere
The IRIS project has given scientists five new discoveries into how the corona gets heated more than its surface, what caused the solar wind, a constant outflow of particles and the process which activates these particles to high speeds and forming solar flares. Details of the findings appear in the current edition of Science.
Jeff Newmark, interim director for the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said, “These findings reveal a region of the sun more complicated than previously thought. Combining IRIS data with observations from other Heliophysics missions is enabling breakthroughs in our understanding of the sun and its interactions with the solar system.”
IRIS revealed heat pockets of 200,000 degrees Fahrenheit, lower in the solar atmosphere than ever observed by previous spacecraft. Scientists call them solar heat bombs since they explode and release an enormous amount of energy. Identifying such pockets of unexpected heat will give us a better understanding of the heating mechanisms throughout the solar atmosphere.
IRIS further discovered numerous, small, low lying loops of solar material in the interface region for the first time. IRIS also discovered mini-tornadoes like structures in solar active regions for the first time. Moving at a velocity of 12 miles per second they are scattered all over the chromospheres.
IRIS also discovered high-speed jets which are fountains of plasma that shoot out of coronal holes at the root of the solar wind. IRIS also discovered nanoflares throughout the corona and are smaller versions of solar flares.
De Pontieu, IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto, California said, “This research really delivers on the promise of IRIS, which has been looking at a region of the sun with a level of detail that has never been done before. The results focus on a lot of things that have been puzzling for a long time and they also offer some complete surprises.”
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Professor, Paola Testa said, “The accelerated electrons deposit a sizable fraction of their energy in the chromosphere and transition region (TR). Our analysis provides tight constraints on the properties of such electron beams and new diagnostics for their presence in the nonflaring corona.”